How to set up a home gym

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying the day so far. For this post, I wanted to chat about how to set up a home gym and what equipment you need, especially since we’re heading into the new year and some of you might be looking to upgrade your workout space.

It’s funny because I never used to be a fan of working out at home. It took so much more to feel motivated, and I’d rather hit up the gym where they had everything I needed. Then, we had kids and everything changed. It’s SO much more convenient to work out at home, especially since you don’t have to tote everyone, and all of their stuff, to and from the gym. (It was worth it in San Diego because Point Loma Sports Club has an incredible kids club. There aren’t a lot of options in Tucson with great gym childcare.) We started to build up our home gym space and now I love working out at home. Even on the days that the kids are at school, I’ll still often catch a workout at home since I don’t have to waste commute time that I could use working, and don’t feel like I need to “get ready.” (I don’t wear makeup to the gym but usually look presentable since I teach at the studio where I work out.)

Before I get started, I just want to emphasize the fact that you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment to get in a great workout. All you need to get an awesome workout is a plan, sneakers that fit you, and motivation. Anything else is just a bonus.  

Here are some tips for setting up your home gym:

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– Weights and resistance training.

Dumbbells: The classic never dies. I think if you add anything to a home gym, a couple of sets of dumbbells are really all you need. I’d go with a light pair (3-8 lbs) and a heavier set (12-25 lbs). 

Kettlebells: Kettlebells are a great way to switch up your strength training. I love using them for swings and unilateral strength work like single-leg deadlifts, shoulder presses, farmer carries, and rows. A kettlebell workout is here. 

Barbells: If you’re used to strength training with dumbbells, a barbell can be a fun way to do something different. 

Bowflex or cable machine: A Bowflex is a little less cumbersome than a cable machine and does a lot of the same things. I have this one and love it.

TRX: TRX is another one of my must-have items. You can install them anywhere, they’re extremely lightweight, and you can do so many exercises with them. My favorite TRX exercises are here.

Resistance bands: These are perfect if you’re a beginner and don’t want to purchase dumbbells yet, or if you have limited space. These are also wonderful for travel. 

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– Cardio options!

For cardio options, check out Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. People are always getting rid of fitness equipment and you might find something awesome!

Treadmill: My #1 favorite brand is Woodway, but they’re hard to find, and Peloton offers a treadmill. <— I haven’t tried it but know it has to be good.

Spin bike: My Peloton is still one of my all-time favorite purchases. I use it 2-3 times a week and LOVE the classes. The Pilot is hooked on it now, too! I recommend a spin bike because it’s low impact, you can get in an excellent cardio workout, and they don’t take up at insane amount of space. Check out my review of the Peloton bike here, and how to PR on the Peloton here. If you decide to go for it, my code is XXKJQU. This will get you $100 off accessories! 

Rowing machine: These are incredible to have at home if you want a different cardio option or you like interval training. I like the rowing increases strength and definition in arms and back, when these areas can be a bit neglected on the spin bike, treadmill, or starclimber. The IndoRow is my fave brand. 

Battle rope: Battle ropes are so much fun (lots of exercises here!) and a fantastic way to get your heart rate up quickly. 

Jump rope: This is the most economical cardio option. Grab a jump rope and do some jump intervals. 

– Stretching, yoga, and recovery.

Foam roller or rumble roller. My tips for foam rolling are here!

Mat. Any mat will do, and Target and Amazon offer inexpensive mat options. My all-time favorite mat is Manduka. 

Theragun. I tried this out at the IDEA Conference and it is inssannnnneee at relieving sore muscles. If you’re looking for an ultimate recovery tool, this is a good one. 

– Fun extras:

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Apps and On Demand workouts:

Peloton App. I think we all know I love Peloton. The classes are fantastic and I love the music. I will say I definitely prefer the cardio and yoga classes over the strength and bootcamp classes, but I think they do an incredible job. Check out my full review of the app here.

Les Mills On Demand. Les Mills On Demand is one of my very favorite resources for home and travel workouts. The instructors are the best of the best and the workouts and science-driven and research-based for maximum effectiveness. They put a lot of care and science into the structure and design of their workouts, and you can tell. My top classes are BODYPUMP, BODY ATTACK, and GRIT. Get 21 days of Les Mills On Demand for free with this link.

Sweat App. If you’re looking to follow a precise plan, the Sweat App is the place to be. They have so many different programs and I really like these workouts when I don’t want to think about anything and just go. 

Physique 57 and barre3. These are perfect if you’re looking for a barre workout! I used to prefer the P57 workouts but I feel like the On Demand ones have been a little stale lately. 

A bench.

A pull-up bar. It’s fun to have family challenges but also kind of crazy that Liv can crank out pull-ups like it’s NBD.

Plyo boxes. Love these for step-ups, box jumps, box hops, and burpees with a box jump. 

Sound system or even a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Do you work out at home or at the gym? If you could add anything to your workout space, what would it be? I really want a Peloton tread… or a Technogym Skill Mill. 

Do you use any apps for classes?




Easy ways to update your home gym

Working out at home

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  1. Liz on December 5, 2019 at 9:15 am

    I just moved to a building that no longer has a gym, so this is super helpful! I had already owned some light dumbbells, a mat and some bands, but was not sure where to go next. Just purchased a kettlebell and heavier set of dumbbells, and a step. Looking to add les mis and an exercise ball for ab work. I’ve been using pintrest for workout ideas, which can be really good for ideas, but I find I work harder when someone is there to follow (I can get distracted). Going to give les mis a try! Another great home gym idea- DOWNLOAD A TABATA TIMER. Seriously, its super cheap (there are free options, but the 2.99 interval timer is totally worth that one time purchase) and its a way to keep up the intensity and manage your breaks.

    • Fitnessista on December 5, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      amen to the tabata timer!! such a great tip!
      let me know how you like les mills, too!

  2. Alicia on December 5, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Have you heard of this:

    We bought one a couple of months ago and it is amazing! A bit expensive, but if you pay for it monthly it’s really not more than a gym membership. It includes a great diverse amount of classes from 15 minutes to an hour and varying difficulties as well. It has made working out much easier for our house. I think it is similar to Peloton in that you pay a monthly subscription and have trainers, etc., but a ton of different workouts.

    • Fitnessista on December 5, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      YES i was wondering if it was good!!! so cool to hear that you love it

  3. milo on December 5, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for this!!

    • Fitnessista on December 5, 2019 at 11:16 pm


  4. Allison on December 5, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    In my home gym (garage) I have a pilates reformer which can do all the stuff you can do on a bowflex (and more!!!) and also a Bellicon rebounder. Rebounding is great cardio and also has so many health benefits-I’d love to see you do a focus on post on rebounding!!! Some other useful things I have are mirrors (so much more motivating to me when I can see myself!) and a space heater/fan to make things more comfortable.

    I’d love to add some flooring in for doing dance cardio……but that might be a little pricey so we’ll see. They do make portable dance floors that are better on your joints than jumping on normal floors!

  5. Juliana on December 5, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    I got these fun spiky dome things a while back to play with while rehabbing an injury and they’re amazing:

    Have you tried an acupressure mat? They’re great!

    I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a pilates reformer but I don’t have room for one, sadly. Do you have one room dedicated to workout equipment, or is it kind of all over?

    • Fitnessista on December 5, 2019 at 11:16 pm

      i have some of those, too and they’re amazing!!
      we have the peloton in the office and everything else is in the garage

  6. Tammy on December 5, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for this post Gina! I have questions about your bowflex machine. Is it similiar to the cybex machines in the gym? Is the weight or the plates pretty heavy to give you good resistance/pump? Or is it pretty light. I looked at the website and it seemed to be marketing it as a mesh of cardio/fast workout which is what I don’t want. I’m a runner so want it specifically for weight training.

    Thanks for any thoughts on it. 🙂

  7. Anne on December 5, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    This was a really good read. I’ve been working out at home for over 20 years now, and it all started with the Cindy Crawford workout tape and soup cans :). I now have an incline treadmill and several more dvds that I work out with. I hope to someday have a basement and when that day comes will invest in another piece of equipment. That rower is a great option (uses 84% of your muscles!?) that I wouldn’t have considered. And I like your reviews of the peloton and app. I think for me a cheaper bike with the $12 would be just fine for my needs and your posts and insights probably saved me thousands :). Thanks for being so encouraging!

  8. Reghan on December 9, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Love my home gym! A Peleton bike is on my wish list one day! But right now I have a regular spin bike with the app on my phone and that does the trick.
    We also have a weight bench, the adjustable weight set that goes from 15 – 50 (plus an assortment of free weights) and we bought one of those Gorilla exercise mats because unfortunately our gym has carpet which isn’t my first choice but we are not sure we want to rip the carpet out yet. It works great!
    I use the Beachbody workouts on my laptop 🙂

  9. Stacey on December 10, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t have a home “gym” per se, but I do have a set of BowFlex Selectec dumbbells that I LOVE! I bought them from Amazon after using a friend’s for a while, and I love that I have every weight I need all in one set of dumbbells. I use Fitness Blender for all of my workouts and I cannot recommend that site enough. I love that it offers a wide variety of workouts, for so many fitness levels, and they’re easily accessible from your laptop or phone.

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